HUGE LOSS The closure of Gateway Leisure next Sunday in Belmullet will see the loss of 40 jobs in the Erris region.
40 jobs go as owner says insurance costs not sustainable
One of the biggest employers in Erris will shut their doors next Sunday because of exorbitant insurance costs.
Gateway Leisure in Belmullet has been hit with an insurance hike of more than 400 percent, which has ultimately sounded the death-knell for the business which welcomed 70,000 children through its doors in 2019.
Managing Director Enda Brogan told The Mayo News yesterday (Monday) that every effort was made to stay open and the business had absorbed a 350 percent insurance premium increase in recent years but when it rose again in recent weeks, the weight became too heavy to carry.
“Our back is to the wall now and it’s completely driven by insurance. We took the hit previously, but it just wasn’t survivable this time. We could try to stay open but what I would have to charge people coming through the door wouldn’t be affordable,” said Mr Brogan.
Gateway Leisure is an inclusive leisure complex stretching over 40,000 square feet comprising of a bar, restaurant, arcade, ten-pin bowling alley, mini golf and snooker and pool areas. However, the variety of activities onsite has proven to be a major problem when it came to insurance cover.
“All the activities here are viewed as leisure. It’s unfortunate that the mix of business we have is ultimately what kills us - yet this is what the region needs as numbers have shown.
“In 2019, we had the guts of 70,000 children through our Kid Island Playcentre here. That didn’t happen by accident. That’s what our model was designed for and we were working hand in hand with the excellent hotels, guest houses and all the other businesses in the area to give a complete package for locals and anyone visiting the area.”
Gateway Leisure employed 40 people before March 2020 when lockdown arrived and the loss of these jobs will be a huge blow to the Erris region, something Brogan is acutely aware of.
“The loss of 40 jobs here is like the loss of 2,000 in Dublin. We’ve had a great staff here since we opened in April 2009 and they’ve answered every challenge posed to them. They always delivered the type of service people expected from us and in recent months have risen to the challenges Covid posed. We re-opened at the end of July 2021 just offering outdoor and then indoor dining in-line with government regulations, but our leisure activities remained closed. We were hoping to get everything up and running as soon as restrictions allowed, but soaring costs of insurance have left us, as a company, stunned,” he added.
“We’re part of PALI (Play Activity Leisure Ireland), a group looking to get a decent deal on insurance but things have gone from bad to worse. Some big players such as Base Entertainment in Maynooth and many more have closed their doors and now, sadly, we have to do the same.”
An interesting fact in this sorry saga is Gateway Leisure has not had a claim against them and has no claim pending, yet it is still hit with a huge insurance bill.
“We had no claim on our policy in all the years here, but the way the insurance system works here is a liability must be carried by the whole group until each child using the facilities is 20 years of age and that is helping to drive premiums through the roof.
“This whole project was built in the need to provide a very positive, much-needed service for the Erris region and the hospitality sector. Now, because a lack of competition in the insurance market we’re being forced out of business. The absence of competition means there’s only one show in town and the choice is either be part of that or close the doors,” Mr Brogan continued before casting his mind forward to brighter days.
“I’m always positive. There’s no point being any other way. The glass is always half-full but a lot of liquid leaked out of it today. We have to sit down now and reassess. We’ll have to reinvent and position ourselves in a different part of the market and see what we can do for this great area of Mayo.”